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Friends of The Underline was featured in Curbed this month, as one of 11 creative examples of transit underpasses that have undergone and are in the process of total transformation. All projects listed, are examples of a new era in underpass design—one that emphasizes high-impact solutions to reconnect neighborhoods and revitalize communities. To read the full article, click here.

As described in Miami Today, Tuesday, February 6th is a milestone day for Friends of The Underline. Miami-Dade commissioners expedited the creation of the Underline this week by voting to waive competitive bidding procedures to grant The Underline Management Organization Inc. full responsibility to manage the right-of-way under the Metrorail. To read the full article, click here.

Posted 01/12/18 by Cindy BarksAmy Kapp in America’s TrailsBuilding TrailsSuccess Stories

“In a big urban area like Miami-Dade, connec­tivity is very important.” —David Henderson, Intermodal Manager, Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization

This 225-mile trail network project throughout Miami-Dade County is taking the region to new levels of transportation, health, and economic and environmental resiliency.

At barely 6 feet above sea level, and with urban development at maximum capacity, Miami is virtually at “ground zero” when it comes to climate and mobility issues. But as the city looks forward, it has plans to elevate itself as it seeks to both strengthen and connect its diverse geography and infrastructure.

Local experts say numerous steps are underway to make the community more resilient. Among them is a move to build higher streets. Also in the mix and gaining momentum: the Miami LOOP, a cross-county trail system being developed by the Miami-Dade Trail Alliance, which was formed by Rails-to-Trails Conservancy (RTC) in partnership with The Miami Foundation and more than 20 local organizations and advocates.

Termed by one state trail advocate as “an extraordinarily brilliant idea,” and with plans to link a network of existing trails and planned routes, the LOOP would cut a 225-mile triangular path through Miami-Dade County with a grand vision to “expand transportation options, make biking and walking safer and more equitable, strengthen the regional economy, reduce the area’s carbon footprint, and improve health and wellness” across the region.

 

Safety + Connectivity = Transformation

Ask about walking and biking safety in Miami, and the experts are fairly unanimous: Miami is not considered by some measures to be a biking- or pedestrian-friendly community. Ken Bryan, RTC’s senior strategist for external relations and the director of the Florida Field Office for nearly 26 years, said that although the area does have a robust cycling community, “it’s a shifting demographics, and the infrastructure is playing catch-up.”

Stuart Kennedy, director of program strategy and innovation at The Miami Foundation, said the city has the fourth highest pedestrian fatality rate in the country, and for many cyclists, the streets of Miami feel dangerous. But with better bike infrastructure, he predicts, “we’ll start to see better awareness.”

That’s where the Miami LOOP comes in.

According to Bryan, the endless new connections made by completing the trail network’s primary corridors—which include world-renowned beaches, a river greenway, and multiple old rail lines—will create new opportunities for walking and biking mobility throughout the county and help decrease the area’s dependence on automobiles.

Circling around the bottom half of Miami and heading up through Miami Beach and points north, the LOOP will seamlessly connect to major sites such as South Beach, downtown Miami, the Port of Miami, and Biscayne and Everglades national parks. Further connections accessible via the LOOP will extend south into Monroe County and north into Broward County.

Dale Allen, executive director of the Florida Greenways & Trails Foundation, believes the LOOP is an exciting idea. “It is one of those extraordinarily brilliant projects,” said Allen. “We’ve got to make it safer and more enjoyable for people to move around on their own power, and in a less intensive way than the car-centric way we do now.”

David Henderson, intermodal manager for the Miami-Dade Transportation Planning Organization, attributes Miami’s historical challenges with trail connectivity, in part, to its “sprawling, urban style of development.” For decades, Florida’s developments often did not factor in trails and open spaces.

Bryan agrees. “Anywhere in Florida, traditionally, it was an afterthought,” said Bryan. “But over the last decade, communities are changing and wanting these things.”

He added, “We’re talking with developers and with the city about incorporating trails on the front end of commercial and real-estate development—in essence setting the expectation that trail-oriented development is the norm.”

And there is plenty of interest among developers.

“There is so much opportunity because of all of the building that is happening in Miami,” said Liz Thorstensen, vice president of trail development for RTC. “We’re still in the process, and there is definitely interest there.”

Boosting that effort are the habits and demands of young urban dwellers, who often prefer walking or cycling to driving a car. “As some neighborhoods become denser, younger people, millennials, are attracted to those areas,” Henderson said.

And with them comes the need for better trail connectivity.

Frankie Ruiz, co-founder of the Miami Marathon, sees the Miami LOOP as a way of fostering a sense of community in a city that can sometimes appear transient. “It gives people a little more pride to be able to say, ‘Yeah, we have that,’” he said.

Ruiz has seen that phenomenon while traveling to mara­thons in other major cities. “I started to realize that Miami was missing something,” he said, noting that options for long, uninterrupted runs are limited in Miami. “Somebody forgot that. They were too focused on the beach.”

But over the past decade and a half or so, things have evolved. “A lot has happened since the marathon started [in 2003],” Ruiz said. And he is excited about the prospect of such up-and-coming trail projects as The Underline and the Ludlam Trail—both of which will allow for long, sustained running and biking without traffic interruptions.

The Underline: A Hidden Gem

The genesis of The Underline dates back about four years, when Meg Daly, now the president/CEO of Friends of The Underline, had a serious biking ac­cident. She broke both of her arms in the crash, but, Daly said, “like everything, there was a silver lining.”

Suddenly, she could no longer bike or drive a car, and she took to walking beneath the Miami Metrorail to get to her physical therapy. A lifelong resident of Miami, she had no idea that the asphalt path—known as the M-Path—existed before the accident.

Although the M-Path served the purpose for Daly, she said the basic paved path wasn’t the most attractive or enticing spot to walk or ride. “The difficulty is the cross­ings,” she added, pointing out that users must deal with about 34 intersections. “There is a lot of graffiti, and the trail meanders, which is bad for visibility. A lot of people simply don’t ride there.”

Still, Daly saw potential. “I saw all of this land, and I thought ‘why aren’t we doing more with it?’ To me, it was a hidden gem, and we had to polish it up,” said Daly.

That started what became a mission for Daly and a host of other advocates—to create a 10-mile linear park, com­plete with two parallel trail lanes (one for bikes, and another for pedestrians) and a network of neighborhood gathering spots in the shady right-of-way beneath the Metrorail. Ulti­mately, the rail-with-trail will serve as a major hub for both public and active transportation.

It will be no small task. Estimates have the cost for the full 10 miles at between $90 million and $120 million. But the first phase of improvements—3 miles starting in the Brickell area—already has funding secured, and construc­tion is slated to start in fall 2018. Other funding is also in the works; the City of Miami Commission committed up to $50 million in park impact fees (generated by development construction that occurs within 1,000 feet of The Under­line) for future phases. Additionally, the Coral Gables City Commission recently committed $15 million for the project from impact fees that will be collected over five years.

Helping to raise awareness for the project is The Under­line Cycling Club, a group of anywhere from 50 to 100 trail enthusiasts who meet up at least once a month to ride the route and educate cyclists from around the city about the nearby amenities and businesses.

Club Co-Chair Laura Ericksen sees The Underline as a needed “vein through the heart of the city.” She noted that along with raising awareness about The Underline, the rides are a fun way to see the city; for instance, the club has ridden to such varied destinations as Little Havana for ice cream and to historic-home areas of Coral Gables.

Ocean Views to Riverwalks

Other sections of the trail have their enthusiastic advo­cates. The Ludlam Trail, which is to be built on a 6.2-mile stretch of abandoned rail line, offers “a fresh canvas,” according to Bryan. It travels through a tranquil spot in the middle of the city, where walkers and cyclists will be able to enjoy a 100-foot-wide linear park and bikeway. The corridor is currently owned by Florida East Coast Industries, and negotia­tions have been underway with Miami-Dade County for purchase of the land; it’s scheduled to go into escrow by the end of 2017 with a closing expected in the second quarter of 2018.

“One of the things that people don’t understand about the Ludlam Trail is that it is 75 acres,” states a video on the website. “This is not just a sliver of land; this is a substan­tial property in the middle of Miami-Dade County.”

“The amount of development in the county under­scores the importance of the acreage around the Lud­lam Trail. It will help preserve open space, create new connections to nature and assist with the city’s environ­mental goals,” said Bryan, noting specific benefits such as decreased vehicle usage and CO2 emissions and increased carbon sequestration.

Also, a part of the Miami Loop is the high-profile Atlantic Greenway (also known as the South Beach Trail), which features oceanfront exposure and a bustling tourist atmosphere. Walkers and cyclists pass palm trees, Miami Beach scenes, and the bars and hotels of South Beach.

Bryan speaks fondly of the cultural and scenic experi­ence along the Atlantic Greenway. “Every time I’m out there, I hear five or six languages being spoken,” he said. “It’s look­ing over the shore, with open ocean views.”

And Thorstensen mentions the appeal of the 10-mile Mi­ami River Greenway. “What’s special about it is it skirts downtown Miami and goes into the neighborhoods,” she said. “It’s a great recreational resource and a really rich opportunity. Right now, it’s a little more low key. There are places where it stops and starts. We want to fix some of those connections so it could be truly a route into downtown.”

Trails: A Climate Game-Changer?

In the wake of September 2017’s Hurricane Irma, which damaged property and knocked out power for thousands, came October’s king tides, the seasonal high tides that regularly flood Miami’s streets and clog storm drains.

The seasonal wave surges are “getting higher and caus­ing more problems,” said Jim Murley, chief resilience officer for Miami-Dade County. Typically occurring in the fall, “over time, these occasions have been happening more often.”

A combination of rain events, tide events and sea-level rise has led to growing problems, steering low-lying areas such as Miami Beach toward a variety of resiliency programs, both short-term and long-term. “We have a lot of interesting challenges ahead,” Murley said.

Kennedy and Murley both see the Miami LOOP as a significant tool for dealing with climate change and the impact of sea-level rise. First of all, the green space that typically comes with the trails can help to absorb rain and floodwaters. “We have so much hard space, so much con­crete, there is nowhere for the water to go,” said Kennedy. “Providing great catchment areas is so critical.”

Additionally, trail use takes drivers off the road, which in turn reduces the emissions linked to climate change. “Anytime you’re getting somebody out of their cars, that’s a good thing,” said Murley, noting the resulting reduction of greenhouse gases.

And it’s estimated that the LOOP will do just that. In fact, Miami-Dade County estimates that The Underline and the Ludlam Trail will result in nearly 8 million vehicle miles avoided annually, and up to 119 million avoided miles over 15 years (the average life of a trail surface)—nearly the average distance from Earth to Mars.

It’s All About Connections

Project creators emphasize that for the LOOP to be truly useable for many riders—and achieve its environmental potential—it must come with connecting spurs. “Things like the LOOP are your basic infrastructure; the next big thing will be to develop little spurs so people can easily access the system,” Allen said. “Connections are the key.”

David Henderson also emphasizes the importance of trail links, calling them the “capillaries” of the system.

“In a big urban area like Miami-Dade, connectivity is very important,” Henderson said. “It’s challenging because it’s a big county with a lot of traffic and not a lot of space for bike facilities.” As the trails are developed, “it is critical to make connections—to employment, to transit and to education.”

Historically, many recreational trails were rural and geared toward enjoyment of the outdoors, he said, adding, “In an urban area, you have a very different goal; you want to leave from your house and get on the trail.”

To date, about 54 percent of the Miami LOOP is complete, and nearly 86 percent of the route’s proposed corridors are publicly owned, meaning that the proj­ect—though vast—may be able to avoid some of the obstacles that other projects encounter related to land ownership. And as the individual projects take form, sup­port continues to grow throughout Miami-Dade County and the surrounding communities.

“When it first started, there were these big, audacious goals, and I doubted how realistic they were,” said Kennedy. “But there are such great folks at every level. We’re seeing this momentum. We’re seeing it peak, and absolutely, I think it’s realistic now.”

Bryan, who has been working on the Miami LOOP for several years, is happy to see the growing momentum. “It’s exciting watching the shift,” he said.

Students and faculty at the University of Miami’s architecture school constructed a performance venue from a series of orange poles underneath the city’s Brickell MetroRail station.

The temporary Brickell Stage was designed and erected by a group from the university, and hosted a range of free outdoor performances that included music, comedy and poetry.

It comprises 1,001 orange-painted rods, fixed vertically to a square base in the same colour. The poles decrease incrementally from three sides to the centre, leaving a triangular area at the front to be used as a stage.

“This design creates a forced perspective that focuses the attention of the spectators on the performers and heightens the visual experience for all,” said a statement from the team.

Lights attached to the branches of T-shaped poles were positioned at the front and back of the square base, to illuminate the structure and allow performances to take place at night.

Performers could make use of matching orange stools, while the audience was able to arrange themselves as they pleased across a patch of green flooring.

“The open-air structure creates a sense of place with an elevated stage and flexible seating to host a variety of free interactive performances,” the team said.

The stage was installed to coincide with the Art Basel fair and wider Miami art week, which took place 7 to 10 December 2018.

The project was a winner of The Miami Foundation‘s Public Space Challenge, which promotes the creation and enhancement of parks and potential gathering spaces in the city.

Brickell Stage was installed along what will become The Underline, a linear park that follows beneath the elevated metro rail lines.

Designed by James Corner Field Operations – which worked on the similar High Line in New York – the 10-mile-long (16 kilometre) trail will run from Brickell Station to Dadeland South Station, and is due to open in 2020.

Photography is by Carlos Domenech.

Project credits:

Design Team: Cristina Canton, Jaime Correa, Adib Cure, Steven Fett, Carie Penabad, Elie Mehreb, Bernardo Rievling, Qiazi Chen

Production team: Tiffany Banks, Andrew Dai, Emily Elkin, Max Erickson, Marisa Gudiel, Elsa Hiraldo, AJ Guillen, Andrea Hernandez-Torres, David Holmes, Laura Martinez, Israel Martinez, Sydney Maubert, Christel Orbe, Mario Ostalaza, Cynthia Pacheco, Dorianne Paris, Cristian Ruiz-Lucio, Jack Shao, Stephanie Tarud, Yuanxun Xia

Taco Tuesday? Yes, please! Join us for an Underline Social at Pilo’s Street Tacos on Tuesday, January 23rd from 6:30-9pm. Hang with The Underline Young Professionals Organization and The Brickell Run Club for an after [run] party that includes 1 free taco/person (Tiznado & Pastor) courtesy of Pilo’s. Hear about all things happening health, fitness & fun with The Underline. Hungry runners and non-runners welcome. Eat, network and enjoy!

Joining the run? Meet your fellow athletes at 6:30pm at the Fortune Realty lot (1300 Brickell Avenue)

Just the food? Meet at Pilo’s Street Taco’s at 6:30pm.

Sign up on Eventbrite here.

For more info about The Underline visit theunderline.org and follow us on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook.

On January 10th, Congresswoman Ileana Ros Lehtinen took to the House Floor to recognize The Underline’s Honorary Board Member, Parker Thomson. “Mr. Thomson represented the sprit of hard work and served as a mentor to co-workers and friends…Parker Thomson has left a legacy of service to his community, one that future generations should seek to emulate.” We thank Congresswoman Ros Lehtinen for recognizing the great work of Parker Thomson as a community leader, and in particular, his leadership in The Underline project. Watch the video below:

By Megan Padilla | December 27, 2017

When Miami unveils the first three of its 10 planned linear miles of parks and trails in 2020, the Underline will join the ranks of New York’s Highline, Atlanta’s Beltline, Houston’s Buffalo Bayou and Chicago’s 606. Said Jack Kardys, Miami-Dade County Parks, Recreations and Open Spaces director, “Every great city has a great park system. The Underline will be the centerpiece of our system.”

Its genesis, though, didn’t come from an urban planner or landscape architect. It was the brainchild of Meg Daly, a Miami resident who would ride Metrorail to reach her physical therapy sessions after breaking both arms in an accident in 2013. Part of that commute involved walking along a wide, shaded corridor beneath the train tracks. Daly appreciated how cool it kept her on those July walks, and she couldn’t help noticing that she was the only person using it. She immediately envisioned the space as an enhanced urban trail.

“Miami is one of the most dangerous places to walk and bike in the country,” said Daly. “The Underline will be an off-road safe haven and the spine of a future biking and walking network that connects our communities.”

Fast forward a little more than four years later and Daly’s idea has begun to take shape. “People told us what they want,” said Daly: two paths — one for biking, one for walking — lighting, native landscaping, public art, seating, water fountains and safe crosswalks. Today, Daly is a fulltime volunteer and the engine driving the Underline.

Initial funds were privately raised and used to pay for a master plan by James Corner Field Operations, a renowned urban planning and landscape architecture firm with worldwide offices. Fairchild Tropical Botanical Garden in Coral Gables is the horticulture consultant on native species that will be exclusively used to ensure sustainability.

When complete, the Underline will run 10 miles beneath the Miami Metrorail from Brickell Station to Dadeland North Station. The Underline will be a linear park, urban trail and living art destination that will transform the previous pedestrian walkway and bike path under the Metrorail into a thriving space of natural habitats, world-class walking, running and biking facilities, inviting exercise zones and a blank canvas for local artists to contribute murals, sculptures, installations and performance art.

It will also be home to butterfly gardens and rare orchids, part of Fairchild’s Million Orchid Project to preserve Florida’s endangered native orchids by propagating and reintroducing a million plants to Miami’s urban landscape.

The total cost is projected at $10 million per mile, for a total of $100 million. To put that in perspective, Atlanta’s Beltline cost was $14 million per mile. New York’s Highline was $130 million per mile, “Though it had very different conditions,” Daly pointed out.

The City of Miami will build the project using money from a variety of city, county and state sources. Private dollars raised are funding an endowment to pay for the Underline’s management, maintenance and programming.

Today, that programming includes free by-weekly yoga classes, a monthly group bike ride and other events that bring people together outdoors. The Underline’s Facebook page is the best place to learn about events.

The Underline’s believers see it as a major destination connecting neighborhoods and people and that will transform Miami into a safe place to bike and walk. The master plan gives each neighborhood a distinct design. Mile zero begins in Brickell, Miami’s second downtown, and will be called Brickell Backyard. The three-quarter-mile section will have an outdoor gym, basketball court, a free-range dog area, parking for 100 bikes, concessions, a sound stage, a playground and public art. At least a half-dozen hotels are within a five-minute walk, said Dale. Brickell Backyard is fully funded and is going to bidding and permitting, with construction set to begin by the end of 2018.

The next two miles are what is called the “typical trail” and act as connective tissue between programmed areas. Daly points out thought that they aren’t at all “typical,” with two trails, separated for pedestrians and cyclists, as well as all the features expected for safety and comfort. This section is also funded and will begin construction just after Brickell’s begins.

The first three miles are expected to have staggered openings in 2020.

“Other linear parks and trails like NYC’s Highline, Chicago 606 and the Atlanta Beltline all have big economic impact with increased property values and transit and trail oriented development,” Daly said.

Proposed walking, bicycle trails under Metrorail get up to $15M from Coral Gables

December 06, 2017

The Underline just got another boost in funding, this time from the city of Coral Gables.

The Coral Gables City Commission voted Tuesday to direct $15 million from impact fees, which come from developers constructing projects in the area, to the linear park. Collecting the funds will take about five years and will likely come from projects like the controversial Paseo de la Riviera, the Miami Herald reported.

The proposed multimillion-dollar park project, which will run under the Metrorail from Brickell to Dadeland, is now only $15 million short of the $100 million it needs for construction. Friends of the Underline, the nonprofit leading the charge for the park, plans to break ground in about a year by starting construction on the Brickell portion.

In the Gables, the park will run in front the University of Miami and NP International’s Paseo de la Riviera, which recently secured construction financing.

Last month, the city of Miami’s planning and zoning department proposed providing bonuses to developers who contribute funds for the city’s portion of the planned 10-mile park.

About a year earlier, Miami city commissioners approved $50 million in funding for the Underline. The money will come from development fees charged by the city, while bout $67 million will be raised through private donations and other public funding.

[Miami Herald] – Katherine Kallergis